Fergie to pick strongest side
Sir Alex Ferguson has promised to pick his strongest Manchester United team against crisis-hit Liverpool after vowing not to repeat last season's shock FA Cup exit.
Manchester United were dumped out of the competition this time last year by Leeds United, the first time Ferguson has lost an FA Cup tie at the third-round stage. Ferguson then opted to include a host of fringe players after rotating his squad in a move that backfired.
Now the Scot says he has no desire to see a repeat of that nightmare when rivals Liverpool make the trip to Old Trafford on Sunday. He plans to restore Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand, after the pair missed his side's 2-1 win over Stoke City in midweek, to his starting line-up.
And despite under-pressure Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson being a close friend, Ferguson is determined to add to his misery by inflicting another defeat that could edge him closer to the exit door.
"The FA Cup is a tournament you can never be sure about," he said. "We made a mistake last year of picking a team that we thought would be good enough to beat Leeds. We had a reminder that the FA Cup has shocks in it. We had one last year and we hope we don't get it this year.
"I think I picked the wrong team last year. In hindsight I could have picked a stronger team. I won't be making that mistake this time. Hopefully I don't pick the wrong team this time.
"It's a tournament which you can't take for granted. We did last year and we got a reminder. It's the first time I'd lost a first round tie since I came to the club. It didn't sit well with me. I was sick for a few days, I didn't enjoy it. Hopefully I will enjoy this better."
With Hodgson's future at Liverpool under threat, Ferguson admits he has sympathy for his opposite number's plight. Hodgson could be nearing the end of his time on Merseyside and another defeat could see his troubled six-month stay come to an end on Sunday.
"We are in a situation where managers are getting fired and threatened to be fired," said Ferguson. "There's no point even discussing it. It's a very difficult industry these days. I feel for all those managers who are under pressure and have lost their jobs.
"The League Managers' Association are the proper people to talk about it. They are doing a fantastic job representing the managers brilliantly and they have a great QC and a great Chief Executive in Richard Bevan. They are the right people to deal with it."
Rooney to return
Ferguson suggests, though, he will show no mercy by including Ferdinand, and more significantly, injury doubt Rooney. It appeared Rooney would be condemned to spend a spell on the sidelines when he limped off with an ankle injury at West Bromwich Albion on New Year's Day.
However, the England forward startled many observers when he made his way back onto the field. That decision appeared to have cost Rooney a chance to figure in Tuesday's win over Stoke. But the 25-year-old has returned to training and could be in contention to make a surprise start.
"If it had been serious Wayne would not have come back on last week," added Ferguson. "Maybe it was not the right thing to do in terms of getting him ready for Tuesday's game. But he started work yesterday and we just hope that he will be all right for Sunday."